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Archive for March, 2013

It’s Tuesday, but I’ve got nothing for you today.  Well, that’s not completely true. I do have a FABULOUS interview coming up with one of my all-time favorite writers, Alice Hoffman, on the Writer Unboxed blog on March 29th. If you get a chance, stop by, okay? And until then, Happy Spring!

 

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I’m not writing much today. I’m sitting by the window, a cup of tea in hand, watching the snow fall. There’s noise from the bedrooms upstairs — footsteps from one room to another, quiet giggling. In a few moments they’ll be down demanding breakfast (yes) books (yes) television (no). It has been like winter in Narnia this year — never-ending. And yet I can’t help but be grateful for one more stolen day. I hope wherever you are, the day is good to you, too.Image

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On a good day, mornings at my house are controlled chaos. On a bad day, it’s just chaos. Like most parents, I’m fighting a losing battle against the clock — there’s breakfast to make, the dog to feed, backpacks to prepare, and one child who points out EVERY morning what a nicer place the world would be if I would just let him sleep, instead of resorting to stripping the covers off and dragging him feet first out of bed. And inevitably, the crazy hour before school starts ends the same way — me booming in a voice that cannot possibly belong to my 5’2 body: “GET. IN. THE. CAR. RIGHT. NOW!”

We’ve been doing this dance together for six years now — since the day my daughter started kindergarten. On good days, I can shake my head and laugh, point out the bluebird at the feeder or the bulbs popping up as I usher them to the car. On bad days, I’m backing out of the driveway and simultaneously delivering one of my dreaded lectures on Responsibility, Punctuality or my personal favorite How Will You Manage in College?

But somehow, every morning, we all wind up in the same place — in the car, listening to our latest book on tape, heading out to face the world together. Right now we’re a unit, my kids and me. We spend a lot of time in the car together, the three of us, and we’re tight, even if they laugh at my music choices and mock my dance moves. And the two of them are even tighter. I watch them sometimes, after I’ve dropped them off, and see how my daughter laughs when he takes off his hat if he thinks I’m out of sight, and how he looks up to her, face shining at making her smile, and sometimes it is hard to drive away.

Because it’s about to change. My oldest is graduating from her elementary school in just three short months, and no matter where she goes, it will never be the same. We’ll still be scrambling to get out the door, but it will be to different destinations: My daughter will be heading to junior high, and my son will be walking up that sidewalk alone, the way he will be for the rest of his academic career. Because of their age difference, it’s unlikely they’ll ever attend the same school at the same time again.

The path that started dividing them from me when they first went to school has branched once more, sending them in separate directions. I’m not sure they realize this yet, if they understand how few mornings we have left together. Next year there may be car pools or buses, a complicated calendar as we struggle to balance everyone’s schedule. My son may finally get to sleep in, my daughter may leave the house without me. But for these last few months, we have time, even if it’s passing too fast. Even if, when I’m yelling at them to get in the car, what I really mean is “Stay here, this size, just like this, forever.”

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Point of view is on my mind this month. My friend Vaughn Roycroft wrote an excellent post on head-hopping that you should read. And  as I am deep in the midst of my own head-hopping with my current book, I thought I’d share my favorite tips here for any writers who might be going through the same process:

Give each character her own book. Go through your manuscript and cut and paste each character’s story into a single document. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain to do (easier in Scrivener than in a regular word processing program) but it will help your writing in several ways. I find I’m much more likely to see inconsistencies this way —  Trudy hates the color blue in chapter  five but wears her favorite blue sweater in chapter 17, for example — than I would if I were just reading through each chapter in the larger document. Plus, creating a separate ‘book’  really helps you nail the voice of each character. And mixing up your work this way will help you with the overall editing, too.

Now read each character’s story aloud. You can do it yourself or paste the copy into a words-to-text program. Are the intonations, the slang, the speech patterns different? They should be. Can you close your eyes, listen to the reader, and know immediately who is speaking?

I’m not saying to go crazy with odd word choices or verbal tics to distinguish your characters. But think of it this way — if an email from a good friend arrived in your in-box with the sender’s name stripped out, you’d probably be able to figure out who sent it based on the way they ‘talked’ in the email, correct? You should be able to do the same thing with your characters.

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Diversity in your characters’ voices — it’s a good thing.

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